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Research Report

An American Strategy for Asia

Dan Blumenthal
Aaron Friedberg
Copyright Date: Jan. 1, 2009
Pages: 39
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Table of Contents

  1. (pp. 3-5)

    It has become commonplace to observe, as Henry Kissinger did several years ago, that the “center of gravity of the world is shifting from the Atlantic to the Pacific.” In contrast to many truisms, however, this one happens to be true.

    In 1950, Asia’s share of the world’s total output of goods and services was about 16 percent. By 1998, thanks to the adoption of market-oriented economic policies across most of the region and Asia’s integration into the global economy, this figure had more than doubled to around 34 percent.¹ By 2030, Asia’s biggest economies may account for as much...

  2. (pp. 6-11)

    The single greatest challenge to American strategy in Asia over the next eight years (and probably beyond) will be that posed by the growing power of the People’s Republic of China. The question of what kind of nation China will ultimately become is as yet unanswered—and it may remain so for a long time to come. For the moment, and despite the predictions of many Western experts that such a feat could not be sustained, China continues to grow wealthy and powerful while being governed by an increasingly sophisticated authoritarian regime that offers its subjects growing prosperity and some...

  3. (pp. 12-14)

    The Bush administration pursued two different strategies toward North Korea. From the revelation of the North’s secret uranium enrichment program in 2002 to its detonation of a nuclear device in 2006, Washington initially sought to isolate Pyongyang and to persuade the other regional players to join with it in applying maximum economic and diplomatic pressure. Unfortunately, the effectiveness of this effort was significantly diminished by the fact that both South Korea and China continued to provide Pyongyang with assistance of various kinds.

    After the North’s nuclear test, the Bush administration changed direction. Following the advice offered by many critics of...

  4. (pp. 15-22)

    Even as it seeks the best possible relationship with China, Washington should make clear to all concerned that its democratic friends and allies are at the heart of its Asia policy. Of these, none is more important than Japan.

    There has been a disturbing tendency in some quarters recently to disparage Japan as a nation past its prime and in decline. With its population set to shrink and its GDP fast being approached by China’s, Japan’s people, it is claimed, have become increasingly susceptible to the appeals of right-wing nationalists. After a brief period of vitality and reform, the nation’s...

  5. (pp. 23-24)

    The last few years have seen numerous proposals for creating new Asian multilateral institutions, including some that would build on the “great power” framework of six-party talks and others, more broadly inclusive, that would incorporate virtually every country in the region, much as the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe does. Some countries (notably China) have pushed “Asian only” groupings that exclude the United States, like ASEAN + 3 and the East Asia Summit.

    The next administration should not just support, but should actively take the lead in helping to design and build a new Asian regional security structure....

  6. (pp. 25-27)

    Despite recent talk of “soft power,” hard power remains the bedrock on which America’s position in Asia rests. Soft power is important, and we will discuss it below. But without hard power to back it up, soft power quickly turns to mush.

    Since the end of the Second World War, the United States has maintained a large, forward-deployed air, naval, and ground presence in East Asia. For much of that time, and certainly since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the ability of the United States to project military power into and around the region has been unmatched and largely...